Carl Edwards is walking away.
In an emotional press conference at Joe Gibbs Racing Wednesday (Jan. 11), Edwards refused to mention the “R” word but made it official he’s leaving his full-time ride driving the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota.
The move, effective immediately, puts Daniel Suarez in the seat full-time, competing for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year honors in 2017.
Edwards claimed in a detailed announcement that his decision centered around three main points. First up, it’s perhaps surprising to some but the 13-year veteran is satisfied with his career accomplishments. Despite not winning a title, 28 race victories and two runner-up finishes in the point standings left him with “more than he ever dreamed.”
The guy who once handed out business cards at races in hopes of landing a full-time ride leaves the sport with well over $80 million in winnings, 445 Cup starts and a career average finish of 13.6.
The reasoning then turned toward family. Edwards, after 20 years of thinking about stock cars “24/7,” explained he needs to devote more time to those most important to him. A private person, he didn’t elaborate much during follow-up questions but reiterated both he and all immediate family members remained healthy. Edwards’ wife, Kate, is a doctor out in Missouri, and he has two children, Anne and Michael.
Leaving the sport healthy was the third and final reason listed by Edwards. After a series of hard hits in 2016, he felt like leaving the sport feeling “100 percent” at age 37 was the right decision considering the wave of recent injuries that have affected star drivers. Calling Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a “standup guy,” Edwards admitted he watched his peer’s struggles with post-concussion syndrome and recognized the risks of continuing to race down the line.
That triggered a conversation with owner Joe Gibbs, held just before Christmas, in which the two made a deal for Edwards to step away. While initially thinking retirement after 2017, the final year of his deal, upon December reflection Edwards “couldn’t find a reason” not to pull the trigger now.
So what’s next? Refusing to rule out a turn toward politics, Edwards did say he has no immediate plans, although he’s intrigued by the prospects television broadcasting could offer. While claiming he’s not “officially” retiring, any future opportunity appears to run through JGR and Toyota. The door was left open for part-time opportunities, but nothing is certain while evaluating the next chapter in his life.
Emotional at times during the presser, when asked about his role model status the veteran nearly teared up and said, simply, “I just want to be a good person.”
History will be the ultimate judge, but Edwards, whose sportsmanship at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November upon losing the title was well-received, leaves NASCAR as a fan favorite.
“It may not make sense to some people,” he said. “But that’s part of growing as a person [brushing off the criticism] and the things NASCAR has taught me.”
Further announcements were forthcoming Wednesday morning announcing Suarez as the full-time replacement beginning with February’s Daytona 500.